What will it take for you stopping what you are doing, stand up, and make a difference?
When you really think about it there is rarely a week that goes by where we come across people that need our help, or encounter situations that just do not sound ethical. Plain and simple: We face a choice of do I stop and do I do something about it or not? Most often we ignore the nagging thoughts and move on. We regret it later though. Don’t we?
Writer Jeff Goins described such a situation in his book “Wrecked – When a broken world slams into your comfortable life”. On a trip to Spain he encountered a homeless man who begged for his help. All he wanted was a little food. Jeff ignored him – at first. After having walked away from the man, his conscience told him to go back and do something about the man’s request. What happened next changed Jeff. He got the man a meal at a local McD and they sat down and talked. The man shared one pivotal sentence with Jeff: “You were the only one who stopped”.
Apparently, the man had gotten stuck in Spain coming from Germany after losing vital paperwork and he had been homeless for about a year. The man claimed that no one ever stopped to give him a meal like Jeff had. Jeff pondered the question how that could have been possible in a large civilized city in Western Europe? Would you have stopped?
This story reminded me of a much smaller scale challenge while being in the German Army. During a maneuver in Northern Germany with various tank battalions, I had been assigned to a wheel and track maintenance unit. A sister unit with smaller tanks called for our help getting a stuck tank out of the sandy area of Bergen Belsen (yes, that’s close to the former concentration camp and worthy another blog post).
All our crews had already set up camp, gotten their showers, and were enjoying their free time. Our maintenance truck’s crew consisted of my commander and a buddy of mine. We reached the stuck tank that had been surrounded by a few other supporting vehicles such as a tank retriever and amongst others, our battalion chief and the commanding officer of the sister battalion.
What a mess this was. A newbie tank commander and his newbie tank driver had attempted steering out of a sandy area and gotten both tracks to come off the front wheel. Both tracks were totally jammed between the tank’s body and the drive wheels. The tank retriever could not retrieve it with tracks that could not go anywhere. Bottom line: The tracks had to be freed and put back into their correct places.
Yet, no one – not even the top leadership – would or could help the tank crew figure out how to get this done. A whole lot of well-meant advice went back and forth. “Should”, “Could”, “Maybe”, “Normally”, “Usually”, “Perhaps”, etc. were the key words. After ten minutes of bantering and bickering I had had enough. I asked the tank retriever guys to stand by with their vehicle and the tank crew to please get the tracks disconnected. After about 40 minutes we had disconnected both tracks, gotten them cleaned off sand, put back on the drive wheels, re-connected them. Finally, the retriever could drag the stricken tank back out of the sand and back on the road.
Afterwards, I asked myself how in the world a low ranking draftee like me could figure this out and implement a solution whilst all the top brass and more experienced leaders had been incapable, or unwilling to do so. The answer is as simple as Jeff’s story would indicate. All that was needed was someone finally getting up, taking a stand, and do something about a challenging situation.
That is one reason why I have an extra $100 in my wallet at all times. I do not consider it my money. Whenever I come across folks who obviously need the money more than I do I can give it to them. It always was theirs to begin with. You will not believe how much of a difference this money can make to a person who may be losing faith in God and mankind, or worse: losing hope. It does another thing for you. Your awareness to what is really going in other people’s lives will forever change your point of view about wrecked lives and how much of it happens right in front of our eyes. We just do not open them wide enough to see it.
This is also my call to action. Please make a habit to give someone renewed hope by stopping and actually doing something selfless for them. Pay it forward my friends and live a life without regrets.